Women warriors rally the indigenous vote

Participants ended the event with a traditional round dance.

On Oct. 11, 2015 at 2 p.m.,  the Rock the Indigenous Vote and Round Dance Rally was held at Vancouver’s International Village. The event was led by indigenous women who are a new generation of activists.

Supporters converge on the steps of Vancouver’s International Village on traditional Coast Salish territory.
Jerilynn Webster, a.k.a. JB The First Lady, with her son Sequoia. JB is a hip hop artist and leading voice in Vancouver’s indigenous community.

We wanted to be in a place that was visible. We wanted lots of people going by and where our drumming and singing would echo from building to building.

JB the First Lady
Lorelei Williams leads Butterflies in Spirit, a group that raises awareness of missing and murdered indigenous women through dance. Belinda Williams, her aunt, has been missing since 1977. Her cousin, Tanya Holyk, went missing in 1996. Holyk’s DNA was later found during the Pickton investigation.

As first born, I have been in a matriarchal role from the beginning. The community chose me at the height of Idle No More. It’s been an amazing journey towards women in leadership.

JB the First Lady
JB and powwow dancer Christy David connect between speeches.
JB and powwow dancer Christy David connect between speeches.
Audrey Siegl, of the Musqueum First Nation, calls for indigenous voters to make their voices heard in the federal election.
Audrey Siegl, of the Musqueum First Nation, calls for indigenous voters to make their voices heard in the federal election.
Siegl embraces her buffalo hand drum. Siegl says that re-establishing a connection to her culture saved her from a life of alcohol and abuse.
Siegl embraces her buffalo hand drum. Siegl says that re-establishing a connection to her culture saved her from a life of alcohol and abuse.

What I found when I picked up the drum was the healing that I had needed my whole life. It’s my friend, my confidant, my medicine.

Audrey Siegl
In an emotional speech, Winona Williams remembers missing and murdered indigenous women.
Several children attended the event, including this young member of the Haisla Nation.
Powwow dancers and activists Christy David (left) and Harriet Prince (right) share a laugh as the rally turns festive.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and his wife Joan sit on the sidelines as a new generation of women lead the rally.
Activist Rosanne Gervais speaks with a Vancouver Police Department officer.

Voting is one little step we can make to create change. Sixty years ago we would have been arrested for this.

JB the First Lady
Several dozen people attended the Rock the Indigenous Vote and Round Dance at Vancouver’s International Village.
Victor Thompson of the Haida Nation attended the rally with his wife and young children. Thompson is a firekeeper and he advocates for indigenous women’s rights.
Lorelei Williams drums and sings with other indigenous women as the day’s events come to a close.

I want to say it feels good, but it kind of sucks that I have to do this. Every time I go somewhere to speak it’s emotionally draining for me, but I hope that in telling my family’s story I can help other women.

Lorelei Williams
Children from the Nisga’a Nation play amongst signs of protest at the foot of the International Village Globe.

We’ve started to speak out and stand up for ourselves. If we start to take care of our women and take care of Mother Earth then things will start to change. I have hope. Hope is all I’ve got.

Lorelei Williams
Participants ended the event with a traditional round dance.